Wind power startup nabs $200 million for projects on homes, farms

Tue Jan 5, 2016 11:08am EST
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By Nichola Groom

(Reuters) - United Wind Inc, which has carved out a niche leasing wind turbines to farms and rural homes, has clinched $200 million in funding from Toronto-based Forum Equity Partners - the largest-ever single investment in small wind projects.

The funding is a vote of confidence not only in the Brooklyn, New York-based startup, but in the nascent market for wind energy that is both produced and used on site.

Distributed generation, or power that is produced where it is consumed, has taken off in recent years as governments have pushed for more renewable sources of energy and have sought to scale back on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that are traditionally used in utility-owned power plants.

Small wind turbines work best on large properties, generally an acre or more, where wind is abundant. The turbines are far smaller than the massive ones seen in a typical industrial wind farms. United Wind customers include farms, industrial facilities and rural homes.

The $200 million will fund about 1,000 projects in the Northeast and Midwest, United Wind told Reuters, allowing the privately-held company to expand significantly beyond the 26 projects it developed since 2013.

Forum includes rooftop solar in its portfolio of investments and sees United Wind as a "first mover" in a market with major opportunity for growth, Chief Executive Richard Abboud said.

The funding from Forum adds to the $13.5 million United Wind received from New York's state-sponsored NY Green Bank and U.S. Bancorp late last year.

"The capital is coming in," United Wind CEO Russell Tencer said in an interview. "We expect to see that same hockey stick (growth) curve that we've seen in the solar industry."   Continued...

A wind turbine installed by United Wind is shown at the Double A Vineyard in Fredonia, New York in this September 2014 publicity photo released to Reuters on January 4, 2016.   REUTERS/United Wind/Handout